Even as an experienced traveler, Anna Manias, COO and co-founder of the tour operator Greeking.me, confessed that she experienced some anxiety ahead of her first trip back to Greece since the pandemic began.
Travelers who abide by current coronavirus regulations, she said, will find their trips to the country similar to those before the pandemic: “Just as tiring, and yet just as exciting.”
Greece first welcomed back Americans on May 14, before many other E.U. countries reopened to U.S. travelers. While tourists continue to flock to the country, it is important to note that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has flagged it as a Level 4 country and advises avoiding travel because of high levels of coronavirus transmission.
Because of reduced tourism and caps on certain tour experiences, Eirini Merakou, a travel adviser for Greece Insiders, said now is a rare opportunity for travelers to Greece to “have your own private island, basically.”
Here’s some key advice from travel experts on what you will need to prepare for your next trip to Greece.
Before you go
Although quarantine is no longer required for all travelers, anyone looking to enter Greece should be prepared with proof of vaccination, a negative coronavirus test, or proof that they tested positive for the coronavirus within the past 30 to 180 days. In terms of negative coronavirus tests, the Greek government is accepting negative PCR tests completed within 72 hours of arrival or a negative rapid antigen test within 42 hours of arrival.
Before leaving for Greece, you’ll have to fill out a passenger locator form. It helps to have this filled out before even boarding your flight, boat or other means of transportation into the country; border agents use this for contact tracing.
Travelers may be pulled aside and tested for the coronavirus upon arrival. If you test positive, you will have to temporarily quarantine at an isolation hotel at no charge — except if you travel by land, in which case you may be denied entry into Greece.
Some entry points on Greece’s land borders have limits on how many people are allowed to enter the country per week, so be sure to check the restrictions in advance of your trip if you are driving.
What to know about restrictions
While masks are mandatory in all indoor spaces in Greece, experts agree that you can feel safe unmasking in outdoor, uncrowded spaces.
“It’s pretty much what you see in most countries,” said Tina Kyriakis, founder of the food and culture tour group Alternative Athens. However, she said, the Greek government recently announced stricter restrictions around indoor spaces.
Travelers seeking entry to indoor restaurants, bars and entertainment venues must show proof of vaccination or recovery from the coronavirus. You can do this with your CDC vaccination card or a digital certificate.
Starting in September, unvaccinated people will only be able to go to indoor archaeological sites, theaters and museums with proof of a negative rapid test taken up to 48 hours in advance.
There are no longer widespread curfews in effect, although some island cities have been under temporary curfews because of high numbers of coronavirus cases.
Restrictions may change, so be sure to check Greek government websites and the U.S. Embassy before for your trip.
How to dine and explore
When it comes to seeing all that Greece has to offer, George Tsakmakides, founder and CEO of Greecefully travel services, said it is best to “be cautious and choose to be outside.”
As in many European countries, people saw a lot of competition in Greece this summer over reservations at restaurants, museums and other tourism-related spots. Outdoor venues are operating at a reduced capacity, which can make it difficult to keep up with demand. During the summer, Merakou advised making reservations between two and five days in advance for popular eateries.
Planning your trip outside of peak travel season can make it easier to be spontaneous and allow for a more private experience in many of Greece’s biggest attractions, including the museums and architectural sites.
Merakou recommended taking a full- or half-day boat trip to explore Greece by sea, along with sampling some of the country’s wineries. Both, she insists, will provide a great experience that visitors will remember long after they have left.
The country has an abundance of islands full of history and delicious cuisines that travelers should be sure not to miss. Some lesser-known favorites of Kyriakis include Naxos, Tinos and Kythira.
“Greece in general is still very much an undiscovered destination,” Kyriakis said. “It has this element that the experienced traveler is now looking for: authenticity.”
Where to get a coronavirus test before returning home
Before heading back to the United States, you will have to complete another negative coronavirus test up to 72 hours in advance — even if you have been vaccinated or have coronavirus antibodies.
Fortunately, there are quite a few options for procuring a test. Clinics and labs in every city offer coronavirus testing, although free tests are no longer available for unvaccinated people. The cost for a coronavirus test is capped: A rapid test costs 20 euros, and a PCR test is 60 euros.
Booking an appointment in advance can go a long way in helping you avoid long lines. Most hotels and travel groups also offer travelers help with booking these tests ahead of time. In some cases, doctors can even come to you to collect the test sample — although Merakou said this will come with an added fee.
Americans can also pack an FDA-approved at-home test in their luggage before heading to Greece. These tests provide rapid results without a traveler having to leave the hotel room.
If you need a coronavirus test or notice symptoms at any point in your trip, Manias said, it is best to call the covid-19 hotline at 1135 for help navigating your situation.
“Greece is a perfectly safe country to travel to,” Manias said. “That being said, your best bet is to use common sense: Follow the rules, avoid overcrowded places and you’ll have nothing to worry about.”
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